Losing stomach fat may help people sleep better

Research conducted at Johns Hopkins University has shown that shedding stomach fat may be beneficial for sleep quality.

The study took place over a six-month period in which 77 obese or overweight people with type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes followed a weight-loss diet plan. In addition, one group of the participants engaged in a supervised exercise regimen. The subjects also completed the Hopkins Sleep Survey to bring to light any sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, daytime fatigue or insomnia.

The average weight loss of the 55 participants who completed the study was fifteen pounds, which a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) found amounted to nearly a 15 percent reduction in belly fat. The sleep quality of both groups also improved by nearly 20 percent.

While methods for losing fat may vary, the researchers noted that the amount of weight lost played a crucial role in sleep quality.

“The key ingredient for improved sleep quality from our study was a reduction in overall body fat, and, in particular, belly fat, which was true no matter the age or gender of the participants or whether the weight loss came from diet alone or diet plus exercise,” said research author Kerry Stewart, Ed.D., professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The importance of sleep
There is a slew of mental and physical health benefits that come from getting a good night’s sleep. According to the Harvard Medical School (HMS), studies have shown that memory is improved with sleep quality, and well-rested people who learn new information are more likely to do better than sleepy counterparts when tested on it in the future.

Mood may also be affected by sleep deprivation, according to HMS. Not getting enough sleep can make people irritable, impatient and prone to mood swings. One study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania found that subjects who only got 4.5 hours of sleep a night were more prone to feeling angry, sad and stressed than people who were well-rested.

While being overweight may be associated with poor sleep habits, not getting enough sleep may in turn encourage weight gain. HMS reports that a lack of sleep skews hormone levels and negatively impacts the way peoples’ bodies store carbohydrates.

Other physical detriments attributed to a lack of sleep may include poor immune system function, along with high blood pressure and other cardiovascular risks.

Tips for getting a good night’s sleep
One of the most important factors for getting a good night’s sleep, according to the Mayo Clinic, is to establish a regular schedule for going to bed and waking up.This should also include rituals or nightly activities such as reading or showering right before the lights are turned off. If people can’t fall asleep after laying in bed for 15 minutes, the source recommends getting up and engaging in a calm activity.

The Mayo Clinic also suggests that people monitor what they eat before bed, and notes that they should not overeat and not go to bed hungry, because the discomfort can make it difficult to nod off. Nicotine and caffeine intake should also be taken into account well before bedtime, becuase the stimulants can stay in the body for hours and prevent sleep.

The University of Maryland (UMD) reports that melatonin may also play a role in sleep quality. The hormone, which is secreted by the pineal gland, helps keep the body’s internal clock on track. A dark atmosphere is ideal for increasing melatonin levels, notes UMD, and you can also take a CalMax Sleep supplement from Dr. Newton’s Naturals. The Mayo Clinic also recommends sleeping in a cool room and in a bed that isn’t too crowded.

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